San Antonio, Texas
In 1915 construction began on what would become known as the “Old Spanish Trail”. Built to serve the burgeoning automobile tourist trade, the roadway spanned the width of the country and linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Because of its southerly route, the cities and towns connected by the trail all shared a common Spanish heritage – a fact that was often reflected in the architecture of the buildings that came to line the roadway.
Burkes Millwork was a cabinet shop built in 1938 on Fredericksburg Road that represented a portion of the Old Spanish Trail that ran through San Antonio. Like many of its neighboring buildings, the building possessed red tile roof flourishes and Spanish baroque detailing. Of particular note was the structure’s entry threshold whose shape referenced the profile of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia located near the western terminus of the Old Spanish Trail in Oceanside, California. Over the years the structure was also used for a variety of purposes including an automotive garage. In 2006 Urbanist Design found the structure in a somewhat dilapidated state. Still, the wide-open interior space created by the large expressed roof trusses was ripe with possibilities and in it was seen the potential to create a truly unique urban residence.
The redesign focused on a voluminous double-height living space located in the center of the building underneath the existing sky lit cupola. This space is entered via an enclosed court on the southeast corner of the building. An office loft is pushed up into the cupola at the far end of this central space and enjoys a commanding view of all activities occurring below. The entry court occupies the south side of this central living space, kitchen and garage while bedrooms occupy the north side. A mezzanine floor is inserted into this zone creating more intimately scaled bedroom spaces. Closets are held toward the interior of the building to allow the bedrooms themselves to take full advantage of exterior windows.
Recycled materials were used whenever possible. The maple floors of the two-story bedroom zone were salvaged from a burnt building. Industrial windows came from a garage in Austin. All exposed wood was reclaimed from trim and sheathing of demolished structures.
The radical repurposing of a building always presents a unique set of challenges. Urbanist Design pushed the envelope of existing codes to create a design that maximized the potential of the structure while still meeting all building codes and regulations. At the same time, occupying a space originally scaled for a different purpose presented several unique residential opportunities. For example the size of the living room has provided perfect location for a swing to be hung from the rafters, transforming the space into a dynamic indoor playground for the owners’ young children.
Elements such as these take advantage of the unique starting point of the structure and create a one-of-a-kind home. While ultimately a unique house for a unique family, Casa [de] Tarjetas nonetheless acts as a fascinating case study in adaptive reuse.
In preparation for filming for HGTV’s ‘Bang for Your Buck’, we staged the house with some great art provided on loan by Marks Moore and Scott Martin. Brent and Jessica Watkins also loaned us a piece from painter and friend Carri Jobe. Thanks to Brantley Hightower for taking photos of our pad dolled up for national debut.